Students 'starve' as govt delays scholarships

Agencies Posted: Feb 23, 2012 at 1341 hrs
Hyderabad An inordinate delay on part of Andhra Pradesh government in releasing scholarships has forced thousands of post-matric students staying at Development Hostels to go without two square meals a day.

A state that boasts of an annual budget of Rs 1.28 lakh crore for 2011-12 (Rs 1.45 lakh crore for 2012-13), is quite inexplicably unable to release Rs 2,000 crore towards the post-matric scholarships for intermediate, degree and post-graduate students living in student-managed hostels (now re-christened Departmental Hostels) under the social welfare department.

On an average there are four Departmental Hostels in each of the 23 districts in the state with student strength ranging from 70-100 in each hostel.

Thanks to the government apathy, besides incurring expenses on their food bill, the students are also required to cough money from their scholarship for paying salaries to cooks, watchmen and other staff of the hostels as the government pays only the building rent.

Though the government released about Rs 1800 crore in the third quarter of this financial year it was sufficient only to clear dues pertaining to the previous financial year, highly-placed government sources said.

With the current financial year coming to close after a month and eight months have already been passed in the ongoing academic year, the government is yet to release the scholarships.

Along with 70 of her fellow students in the hostel, Pragna (name changed on request), a second year degree student staying in a student-managed Departmental Hostel at Sangareddy, about 60-km from Hyderabad, is making do with a single meal a day for the last couple of months.

"How can we buy rice, provisions and vegetables without money? We are pooling what little money we are able to get from our parents and ensuring that we have at least one meal a day," she said, adding that not all students were lucky to draw money from their homes as they came from impoverished families.

There are three student-managed hostels in Medak district with a total strength of about 250 students.

Deputy Chief Minister C Damodar Rajanarasimha besides two of his ministerial colleagues hail from Medak district whereas Sangareddy MLA T Jayaprakash Reddy is the Government Whip in the rank of a minister.

Students in Krishna district are slightly better off as compared to their counterparts in Medak.

learning about the hardship faced by the students due to non-payment of scholarships, Krishna district Collector S A M Rizvi directed the Social Welfare Department officials to take rice "as loan" from the regular hostels (managed by the government) and supply it to the student-managed hostels.

The Collector also arranged for supply of provisions and other essentials on credit from the Vijayakrishna Super Bazaar, run by the Co-operative Department.

As and when the state government releases the scholarship arrears, the credit will be cleared.

Collector of another district diverted Rs 8 lakh from the District Rural Development Agency\'s interest amount and distributed it to students (as loan) so that they could at least manage things for a few days.

"It was so pathetic to see teenage students in a mal-nourished condition. Some of them looked mentally disturbed," he recounted after conducting surprise inspections at the hostels.

Meanwhile, officials in the Social Welfare Department here admitted that there has been a "problem" in releasing the scholarship amount.

"We have made all transactions online this year to ensure transparency. Online applications were received till December while the \'verification\' process was completed only at the end of January. Hence the delay in payment," a top social welfare department official said, adding the funds might be released in the next few days to clear all the dues.